Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”) sat down for a virtual chat for Variety‘s Actors on Actors.
And they discovered that they both had come of age as young actors — and young women — between the ages of 23 and 32 on “The X-Files” (Anderson) and “Mad Men” (Moss), and were delighted by the coincidence.
The question nags at you: Is Gillian Anderson British or American? Yes, she was born in Chicago, but her family relocated to London shortly thereafter. They came back to the United States before Anderson entered high school, but kept an apartment in England, which they returned to each summer. She trained as an actor at Chicago’s The Theatre School at DePaul University, but also took part in the National Theatre of Great Britain’s summer program at Cornell University. Once Anderson began acting professionally, her roles only deepened the mystery. Anderson became a star as the FBI Agent Dana Scully on Fox’s decade-defining paranormal procedural The X-Files, where, for 11 seasons (seven of them alongside David Duchovny as her partner, the self-deprecating UFO truther Fox Mulder), she confronted all manner of anomalies and conspiracies with deadpan skepticism and a flawless American accent. (In 1997, she accepted an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress with one, too.) She’s held her own playing a member of American high society (the tragic Gilded Age socialite Lily Bart in the film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth) as well as the British aristocracy (Lady Dedlock in the 2005 BBC miniseries Bleak House and Miss Havisham in the 2011 adaptation of Great Expectations). Later in her career, she faced down psychopaths on both sides of the pond, as Hannibal Lecter’s personal shrink in the NBC gorefest Hannibal, and as a detective hunting a serial killer in the BBC Two murder mystery The Fall. Last year, Anderson, who, to further obfuscate the matter, toggles between British and American accents depending on who she’s speaking to, seemingly ended the debate by disappearing into the role of Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, in season four of the Netflix drama The Crown. A master class in keeping a stiff upper lip, the performance won Anderson a Golden Globe Award. And then, as if the 52-year-old actor has been playing us from the start, she recently signed on to star as none other than Eleanor Roosevelt in Showtime’s upcoming anthology series The First Lady. But first, a chat with the actor Helena Bonham Carter, which, for the record, is about as British as it gets. —BEN BARNA
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Can I ask you, what are you wearing?
GILLIAN ANDERSON: Cotton velvet leggings and a little button-up sweater. It’s one of my three go-to loungewear outfits.
BONHAM CARTER: You’ve got an outfit?
ANDERSON: Well, I’m in pajamas for a while, but I don’t like making French toast for the kids in pajamas, so I change into this.
BONHAM CARTER: That’s good. You’ve got standards in front of your kids.
Read the full interview/article in our press library.
I have taken some days to think what to write, what to say. But ultimately words always failed me and tears started falling.
Between the night of wednesday and thursday, the beloved webmiss of this fansite and my dear friend Angie passed away. Now I could be telling you everything about her and the wonderful person that she was (because she was), but I am still angry at something that shouldn’t have happened. Life has always been tough on her, but she was tougher. It didn’t smile too much for her, it didn’t really light the way, but she was hanging around and making sure to fight desperately and keeping attached to it.
Her passing cast a shadow of sadness on the entire fansite community and we will all be grieving for quite a long time I think. But Angie was a loyal good friend to all of us and fansites were the thing that made us all come together and meet with each other.
I feel a deep sense of honor in knowing that, anything had happened to her, she had wanted me to keep going with this fansite which, after all, was the reason why we met. I will probably take another day or two to let my emotions go and then start working on it. For Angie, in her memory, never to forget her passing and the prints she left in everyone’s heart.
Goodbye Angie, have a safe trip towards the new beautiful that awaits you. Thank you for everything you gave us through the years, for the love, the passion, the kindness and generosity that made you the wonderful person you were. We all love you, we always will.
We have another new project to look forward to! Gillian will be guest starring on The Great for 2 episodes!
Gillian Anderson is joining the cast of “The Great” Season 2 at Hulu.
Anderson will appear in two episodes of the season as Joanna, the mother of Catherine (Elle Fanning). Joanna is a glamorous socialite from Germany, sometimes also known as the “maestro of marriage” for her abilities to arrange high profile partnerships for her daughters. She has heard rumors of her daughter’s coup and come to Russia to see it for herself. Though the apple of Catherine’s eye and a doting mother, it soon becomes clear Johanna has more sinister intentions to save her family’s reputation.
Along with Fanning, Season 2 of the series will also star Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan, Bayo Gbadamosi and Belinda Bromilow.
This marks the latest in a string of historical figures Anderson has played or will play recently. It was reported in February that she will appear as Eleanor Roosevelt in the upcoming Showtime anthology series “The First Lady.” That announcement came after her Golden Globe-winning turn as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Season 4 of “The Crown” at Netflix. Anderson also currently stars in the Netflix comedy series “Sex Education.” She is best known for her starring role in the Fox supernatural procedural “The X-Files,” for which she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe. She also received Emmy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations for “Bleak House.”
She is repped by Independent Talent Group and UTA.
“The Great” is a satirical dramedy about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. The first season was a critical success for Hulu, earning Emmy, SAG Award, WGA Award, and Golden Globe nominations.
Apologies for the delay! The gallery has now been updated with the HQ captures from season 2 of Sex Education. Enjoy!
Nearly 30 years after breaking out on “The X-Files,” the actor is still finding ways to surprise us—and herself.
“Growing up in front of millions of people, and the intensity of nine years of being on a series—what actually happened was not what would necessarily normally follow,” Gillian Anderson says of ending her time on the prime-time must-watch series “The X-Files.” And while she ultimately did use her breakout screen role at age 25 to build a lasting career in the arts, she says her experience at the time with stardom and the loss of privacy made her question what to do next when the series’ first run wrapped in 2002.
“What actually happened was [that] I didn’t know if I ever wanted to step foot on set again,” she continues. “The first thing that I wanted to do was theater.” And so she picked up and left Los Angeles for London and made it happen.
“Had that not been my state of mind, I probably would’ve hired a publicist who would’ve been pushing me out there in Los Angeles as me, separate from [Dana] Scully,” Anderson says in hindsight of her role as the beloved FBI agent. Instead, she was performing on the West End just a few months after arriving, in productions of “What the Night Is For” and “The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” that carried her through 2004. In another world where she had succumbed to that uniquely Hollywood “use it or lose it” pressure, she says, “I would’ve had a version of my career that would have been very, very different than the career that I’ve had. I definitely wouldn’t have been in ‘Bleak House’ or ‘Great Expectations.’ It had a big impact on the choices that I made, because I was burnt out.”
Anderson’s story is proof that burnout doesn’t always mean the end of something. In fact, it sometimes can be the beginning of something burning anew, a gift that helped her strengthen her craft while continuing to challenge herself.
“I think there have certainly been stepping stones along the way where either the things that have come to me or the things that I’ve chosen have gotten harder and harder,” she says with a laugh.
The latest such effort is why the SAG Award, Golden Globe, and Emmy winner is calling in by Zoom from her home in London on a mid-January evening. We’re discussing her acclaimed portrayal of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on “The Crown” Season 4, a performance that once again has her in the awards conversation, with SAG and Golden Globe nominations. It’s her latest career move that only became possible because all those years ago, she homed in on exactly what she wanted as a performer.
Despite her consistent work across mediums in the U.K. and U.S. in the years since Scully (among them runs on “Hannibal,” “The Fall,” and “American Gods”), it was playing Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” first on the West End in 2014 and then again Off-Broadway in 2016, that signaled Anderson’s entry into what could be considered a new era for her in terms of character choices.
Another new project for Gillian!
Gillian Anderson is taking on another famous woman in history.
The Crown and Sex Education favorite has been tapped to star alongside Viola Davis and Michelle Pfeiffer in the Showtime drama The First Lady.
The anthology focuses on the personal and political lives of the country’s most enigmatic heroes, with season one focused on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford (Pfeiffer) and Michelle Obama (Davis). Anderson, who most recently portrayed Margaret Thatcher in Netflix’s The Crown, will portray Roosevelt.
“Gillian Anderson is an actress of incredible range and exquisite talent — she is the perfect choice to complete this powerhouse trio, who will inhabit the roles of these iconic women,” said Amy Israel, exec vp scripted at Showtime. “It’s inspiring to have Gillian, Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susanne Bier and Cathy Schulman at the forefront of The First Lady. They have truly set the stage for a landmark Showtime series.”
Roosevelt served as the first lady of the U.S. from 1933-45, making her the longest serving first lady in history. She was an American political figure, diplomat and activist. Controversial for her outspokenness, particularly on civil rights, she was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column and host a weekly radio show. She also pushed the United States to join and support the United Nations and became its first delegate.
Author Aaron Cooley (Four Seats: A Thriller of the Supreme Court) created the series and will write and exec produce alongside Davis and her husband/JuVee Productions partner Julius Tennon, Oscar winner Cathy Schulman and her Welle Entertainment banner (Crash), Jeff Gaspin (L.A.’s Finest) and Link Entertainment’s Brad Kaplan (Mr. Church). The series is a co-production between Showtime and Lionsgate Television. Andrew Wang and Susanne Bier, the latter of whom will direct, also exec produce.
Anderson joins a cast that also includes Judy Greer as Nancy Howe, Eckhart as President Gerald Ford, Jayme Lawson as young Michelle Obama, Kristine Forseth as young Betty Ford and Rhys Wakefield as vice president Dick Cheney.